How do you tell a story that suits everyone who hears it?
It is not uncommon for visiting university students to reflect that they found a production unsatisfying in various ways. I generally ask them what it would have taken for the production to have satisfied them. Out comes a long list of desires. Perhaps they want a new perspective on the play, perhaps they want innovative readings of the text, fresh, but not too fresh, staging possibilities.
Very rarely do they say they simply want to be entertained.
I often remind them that they are probably not the target audience, indeed that their self consciously intellectual perspective might be a minority one amongst the whole audience. This often sparks an interesting discussion about who the RSC’s target audience might be?
On any given night at the theatre there will be at least some of the following people in the audience.
Children between the ages of 5 and 10.
Visitors who speak very little English.
Academics or enthusiasts who may have seen this play, even this production, many times.
Scholars who recognise edits from different editions.
People who have never seen a Shakespeare play before
People who think they hate Shakespeare and have reluctantly accompanied a friend/relative/teacher to the theatre.
People like you.
People like me.
We each have different ideas of the perfect production. On any one night only some of them will be satisfied.
So next time you visit the theatre, if the production does not suit you think about who it might suit. Because it is almost certain it suits someone. Perfectly.